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Pacific Regionalism - Making an Impact in 2017
10:43 pm GMT+12, 19/03/2017, Fiji

By Dame Meg Taylor
 
This will be an important year for the Pacific, with many opportunities to progress the priorities decided by Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum when they met in the Federated States of Micronesia in September last year. These priorities include climate change and resilient development, management of our fisheries and our ocean, international and intra-regional trade and investment, disability and gender equality. These priorities recognise and respond to the concerns and ambitions that the people of the Pacific have raised through new avenues for consultation and dialogue within the Forum, initiated under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
 
Forum Leaders called for an inclusive and game changing approach to development when they adopted the Framework for Pacific Regionalism in 2014. Leaders recognise that Pacific Regionalism now, and into the future, must be adaptable, innovative, inclusive, and most importantly, it must positively impact the lives of our people.
 
At the heart of Pacific Regionalism is collaboration and partnerships. Last year we welcomed French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full Forum members, and Germany as a Forum Dialogue Partner. Each of these relationships offer new and valuable prospects. This year we must continue to develop genuine and enduring partnerships across all our stakeholders so that we can implement the transformative policy initiatives that Pacific Regionalism reaches for.   
 
I see many opportunities to advance our regional priorities in 2017.
 
Our region is 98% ocean. The Pacific Ocean is at the heart of our cultures and we depend on it for food, income, employment, transport, and economic development. How we manage this resource is critically important. The Forum has undertaken to increase the economic, social and environmental benefits accrued from our oceanic and coastal fisheries through improved management and monitoring. With regard to our oceanic fisheries we are currently focussed on four key areas of work: reform of longline fishery management; increasing the value of employment and ensuring effective labour standards; facilitating greater investment and trade; and scaling up value chain participation. Coastal fisheries are important for food security and the health of our people and this year will see a greater emphasis placed on resourcing for management in this sector.
 
Of course, the ocean itself knows no national borders and therefore the region has great interest this year in the international negotiations relating to the Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) and protecting Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). We are committed to unpolluted and sustainably managed eco-systems, and we wish to ensure that the appropriately high levels of conservation that we apply to our own countries is replicated in the international waters that surround us.
 
Progressing these and other related issues at the global level is an opportunity the Pacific will take to the UN Ocean Conference, which Fiji is co-hosting, in New York, 5 – 9 June.
 
Many in our region have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of climate change and disasters. Guided by the values of Pacific Regionalism, the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) represents a risk-informed approach to development that factors the effects of climate change and disasters into the planning of both national and regional strategies. This is the first time in the world that a regional response that complements national level strategies has been attempted. In endorsing the FRDP, Pacific Leaders recognised the need for a Pacific Resilience Partnership – comprising Forum member countries, regional agencies, civil society, private sector, and multilateral banks and agencies - to coordinate its implementation. The first meeting of that Partnership took place at the Forum Secretariat in Suva recently and it was a positive first step which saw a vibrant exchange of ideas and experiences. Further investment in, and development of this Partnership in the coming months will lead to increased opportunities for our most vulnerable into the future.    
 
With Fiji, a Forum member, as President of this year’s 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) there is a great opportunity for highly visible collective diplomacy that calls on developed countries to increase their ambition to reduce carbon emissions. Together we can advocate for accelerated implementation of the Paris Agreement, which captures many of the core climate related priorities of our most vulnerable countries, including addressing loss and damage, simplified access to climate finance, and limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C above pre-industrialised levels.
 
The promotion of human rights is a core value of Pacific regionalism. Forum Leaders are committed to open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia around allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua (Papua).  Forum Leaders are also committed to the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in their quest to obtain just and fair compensation from the United States of America for the ongoing consequences of nuclear testing conducted in their country in the 1940s and 50s. Work in both these areas is ongoing and will continue this year.    
 
Much work has been done in recent years to develop National Trade Policy Frameworks across the Forum and this year, in line with Leaders commitment to streamlining business processes and harmonising business practices, we can look to those documents as the foundation for developing an implementable plan to achieve this. With the reputation of Pacific exporters and importers continuing to grow internationally, this initiative, along with work being done by our Pacific Trade and Invest network, represents further areas of potential and growth.
 
Forum Leaders are committed to inclusivity, equity and equality. In the last two years Leaders have endorsed the Pacific Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. In doing so, the region has pledged to work together to uphold these values and following through is a responsibility we share and must actively get behind.
 
As you can see, there is much being done and much still to do. The implementation of these initiatives is our primary focus. In February of the last two years we have run a public process that enables the people of the Pacific to contribute regional policy ideas that the Forum should consider. This year we will defer that process until after the Forum Leaders Meeting in Samoa in September. This is to ensure that the Forum Secretariat, the Council of Regional Agencies in the Pacific (CROP), and our development partners can maintain that focus on supporting implementation of our existing regional priorities in the short term.
 
Pacific Regionalism in 2017 must improve the lives of Pacific people. It needs to be at the vanguard of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in the region. It needs to drive economic growth and it needs to ensure safe and secure societies.
 
Pacific people must continue to speak about what issues are important, what issues Leaders should be paying attention to, and what the solutions might be. They also need to be included in the implementation of those solutions.
 
Most importantly, we need to work together at different political and technical levels. It is through committed and inclusive collective action that the region will have the best chance of achieving development impact in 2017.
 
I remain committed to the vision of Pacific Regionalism and firmly believe that by working together we can achieve meaningful and sustainable development for our people.
 
Dame Meg Taylor is the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
 



SOURCE: PIFS/PACNEWS


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